If you've seen any of the new Thunderbolt Macs torn apart you will recognize the piece of silicon above. That flip-chip package is Intel's first Thunderbolt controller, codename: Light Ridge (clever). It features four Thunderbolt channels (4 x 10Gbps bidirectional = 80Gbps aggregate bandwidth) and up to two DisplayPort outputs. It's used in the 2011 iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini.

This is Eagle Ridge, it's little brother:

Images Courtesy iFixit

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels (2 x 10Gbps bidirectional = 40Gbps aggregate bandwidth) and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate. The MacBook Air's GPU also doesn't support more than one external display so there was no point in using a Thunderbolt controller with two DP outputs. Note that performance is identical to Light Ridge as we demonstrated in our review here

I'd expect to see Eagle Ridge, not Light Ridge as the Thunderbolt IC of choice for OEMs going forward. At least if price is a concern.

Source: AnandTech

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  • jordanclock - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - link

    It isn't an external PCIe bus. The bandwidth is similar, but calling it a PCIe would imply a certain protocol. Thunderbolt is protocol agnostic. It can carry PCIe, USB2/3, DisplayPort, etc. and that's the big deal about it. You don't need to care what kind of devices you're connecting. Just plug them in and the devices figure out the protocol automagically. So it DOES replace USB -cables- but not the USB -protocol- because Thunderbolt doesn't have a default protocol.
  • SmileyDude - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Actually, Thunderbolt only carries two protocols natively -- PCIe and DisplayPort. USB, Firewire, SATA, Ethernet and others are carried over Thunderbolt by using bridge chips between them and the PCIe lanes. That's the big advantage of using PCIe in Thunderbolt -- they can appear to be protocol agnostic because of existing PCIe devices.
  • Shuriken - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - link

    I can only remember some of the great technologies that Intel introduced:

    - BTX
    - RDRAM
    - NetBurst
    - Larrabee (oh wait they realized it failed just in time)

    The problem is that many times Intel tries to impose a standard on the market. They should find other manufacturers that want to work with them. It's far easier that way. But of course less money to be made, and that's what's it all about.
  • Black1969ta - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    RDRAM was made by a company named RAMBUS, it was simply supported by Intel and included in a few of their chipsets.

    BTX was a good idea at the time, (Netburst/Presshot) but the cooler Conroes paved the way to lower CPU thermals and rendered BTX to expensive to solve a no longer exsisting problem.

    Larrabee, Much like the the raytracing graphics that were promised back in the early '90s. is not ready for the consumer market. Raytracing is incredibly computationally intensive,nd AMD and nVidia require too much silicon just to make current golaith GPU's.

    Also they didn't rule out the concept totally just for the near future, I expect that part will be integrated into the Magny Cours design.
  • tipoo - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    So which chip does the 13' MBP have? I know its limited to one monitor, but as far as I knew it used the same chip as the bigger Pro's so 4x10bi (yeah I invented a new notation).

    Anywho, we all knew the HD3000 wouldn't have much fun with two big honking displays plus the internal display anyways, and 2x10bi is still more bandwidth than home users will need for quite some time, so I'll give this a "no biggie".
  • Sandman619 - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    • Thunderbolt supports U S B, FireWire & every popular video connection. Which means that there is no need for these ports on a computer, only an adapter
    • Future upgrades to Thunderbolt will offer connections @ light speed, literally, as the actual concept is based on using fiber optics
    • The MacBook Air cannot drive more than 1 display, therefore Apple's standard chip doesn't offer any additional benefits
    • Each channel offers 10Gbps, but this cannot be aggregated, so the present limit is 10Gbps

    Cheers !
  • fghddj - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Oh so instead of carrying just a laptop around you will have to carry a laptop and 2-3 adapters depending on what devices you'll want to plug in. That sounds totally awesome!

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